Pt I: It didn't have to end this way (but we're all kinda' glad that it did)
At the end of the day, it was always about the money. Vernon Wells ranks at or near the top of every major offensive category on the Blue Jays career leaders list - and yeah, they're mostly counting stats based on longevity, but isn't that the point? - and yet, his relationship with the fans has always been...... strained. To say the least.
I mean, who gives themself the nickname "Boo"? A pretty good player living under the shadow of a ridiculous (as seen now) 7 yr/$126M deal handed out at the apex of MLB contract insanity, that's who.
That's megastar money for (just) a pretty good ballplayer who found himself in the right place at the right time. But with that money came expectations that could never be met and shoes ol' Boo could never fill. You always got the feeling Wells was a better fit in a supporting role, but that was never going to be an option once ink met paper. $126M players can't hide in the background, and every struggle was magnified. Every roll-over on an outside fastball or pop-up (GODDAMNIT!!) on a decent offspeed pitch brought on the chorus of hate as a result.
And now we won't have Vernon to kick around anymore. I'm not going to lie to you, I'll miss him.
Pt II: .... but it's OK to be happy about this
Am I going to miss the remaining $80+M over the next 4 seasons? Not so much. Being perfectly honest, I don't really care what Wells made. I never have. But it was/is (to the Angels, now) an albatross contract that had to affect the front-0ffice thinking with regards to roster construction, despite the constant proclaim of an open-ended budget.
And now? No more. If nothing else, it lets us dream (which is everything here). It's behind the subscriber wall, but I'll share a line from Keith Law's analysis of the deal on ESPN regarding the final outcome and ramifications from a Blue Jays perspective:
"They could become very good, very fast."
Feels good to be on the other side of one of these, doesn't it?
Pt III: And what of the new guys? Where do they fit?
Mike Napoli is an offensive-minded catcher whose best attribute is his power, and his worst? Fringey defence. Sound familiar? Somewhere, JP Arencibia nods his head silently. That said, don't be so quick to write-off the Jays' feelings about their young catcher or play up the team's apparent hesitation to let JPA play.
I'm of the opinion that Napoli will find AB's at 1B and DH in addition to his catching duties (think 3 times a week or so), with Arencibia likely seeing slightly-above platoon level at-bats. It just seems the franchise has invested too much in the young catcher in terms of coaching (Wakamatsu) and PR ("the kid has to play") to let him waste away on the bench, and there's nothing left for the AAA MVP to prove in Vegas. So play he will.
Juan Rivera? 4th outfielder..... if he makes the trip north out of Spring Training still a Blue Jay. I'm not convinced.
Pt IV: Where do we go from here?
If I have a concern for the 2011 Blue Jays (just one?), it's this: who are these guys?
Are we close to having all the pieces of the collective puzzle known as The Plan within the system? Or does this magnificent salary mulligan mean more blockbusters are on the horizon - be it this season or next winter? Something even more than a multi-year deal for Jose Bautista? Trades taking on salary? Players in free agency? Extensions for more young stars (Snider, Morrow....)?
(and by the way, if/when Bautista signs on long-term with the club - which I believe he now will - we should get everyone's opinion on record to prevent or justify the tired "I told you so" meme three years down the road. Me? I liked locking up Wells at the time. I know, I know....)
Pt V: Alex Anthopoulos terrifies me
In a good way. Silent Assassin, indeed.
Pt VI: From an LAA perspective
What. The. Fuck?
.... and in the end, it's a great deal for the Blue Jays franchise and a fresh start for Vernon. Remind me to never again bemoan the lack of "blockbuster" moves from the team during the traditional transactional periods. Goddamn, AA. Wow.